ISLAMABAD: Local communities as stakeholders are an essential element for the success of a policy, as they contribute to national cohesion and economic growth if they take ownership of the project and are offered the right opportunities. This is true for coastal communities, and while acknowledging this aspect, the Pakistan Navy follows a humanistic approach in its security strategy, as evidenced by various development projects based along the country’s coastline.
This was underscored by speakers at the book launch ceremony for Gwatar Bay to Sir Creek: The Golden Coast of Pakistan – History and Memoirs, written by Vice Admiral Iftikhar Ahmed Rao (Retired) and published by IPS Press, the editorial arm of the Institute of Policy. Studies (IPS). The event was organized jointly with the National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA).
The session was chaired by Admiral Mohammad Asif Sandila (Retired), former Chief of Naval Staff, co-chaired by Khalid Rahman, President of IPS, and honored as guests of honor by Kanwal Shauzab , Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah (retired), Former Chief of Naval Staff, Lieutenant General Tahir Mahmud Qazi (retired) and Vice Admiral Abdul Aleem ( retired), Director General of NIMA.
The rally was also delivered by Ambassador (Ret’d) Khalid Mahmood, President, Institute for Strategic Studies, Islamabad, Ammara Durrani, Deputy Resident Representative, Senior Development Policy Unit, UNDP and Ambassador (Ret’d) Syed Abrar Hussain, Vice President of IPS.
Participants felt that the book provides insight into the latent human angle on the Pakistani coastline; development potential that has become critical for the region’s politics and economy. As such, involving and empowering the local population not just along the coast but across the country is important for national security.
The book provides a number of tips for doing this. It was observed that policy formulation is not a mechanical process and cannot be done independently of history and context. It must include consultations with stakeholders, as evidenced by various incidents shared in the book.
In this context, the speakers said that amid the current negative narratives about Pakistan, the book depicts a success story of how successive governments systematically worked for the handover of Gwadar to Pakistan from Oman, which was eventually achieved. in 1958.
Reflecting on his rich experiences along the coastal belt, Admiral Rao shared several anecdotes from his book where he remained at the center of much development-related work, particularly in solving a fishermen’s dilemma in the Sir Creek area. . This initiative resulted in the digging of the Marines Channel which continues to help anglers gather enough catch for sustainability while remaining safe.
The former Deputy Chief of Naval Staff (Operations) lamented the sea blindness prevalent in the country, while appreciating that awareness on the issue is gradually starting to be raised through different measures taken by various research and academic institutions.
Admiral Sandila acknowledged that he became familiar with many historical facts while reading the book. He praised the quality of the references used in the book, while saying that the work also presents a vision of the coastline which can prove very beneficial for the country in the future.
Khalid Rahman underscored the importance of such comprehensive work, particularly for research and policy domains, in the digital age where even the most experienced and best-informed policy practitioners and key opinion leaders placed are obliged to express their point of view briefly. In such an environment, sound and sustainable policy-making should be based on evidence-based reports and books and research and not just real-time information, he added.
Kanwal Shauzab called the book a reflection of the author’s 40 years of maritime experience, offering insightful geographical, economic, social and development perspectives of the region. She praised the author for an inspiring piece of work written in very simple, jargon-free language, making it easy reading for experts and beginners alike.